Dear Mentor:

Will an employer let me pursue a PhD?

I am in the middle of my Master's in Electrical Engineering and would like to pursue my PhD while working for a company at the same time. Is it possible to do that? If so, how to approach the companies? Is there any separate approach for this?

Working and Studying, Kingston, Rhode Island, USA

Dear Working and Studying:

One must keep in mind that companies recruit prospective employees, not prospective students. Companies in the US have a diverse approach to dealing with further education for their employees. Some companies neither encourage nor discourage the pursuit of further education in your spare time. Some companies support and encourage further education in various forms such as: offering flexible hours to accommodate the class schedule, paying tuition, offering leave of absence, and so on. How a company deals with the situation is dependent on the company's policy and practices.

You can seek the privilege of working and studying concurrently, but you can not demand it. It is quite possible to work full-time and study part-time, with or without the employer's explicit blessing or support. The situation, of course, becomes much more desirable when the employer supports you.

As you search for prospective employers, you should pay careful attention to how the prospective employer would deal with your interest in pursuing a PhD. If you already have an employer, you may wish to discuss the situation with your immediate supervisor and the Human Resources department.

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